Spring is in full swing in the Northern Hemisphere, so in honor of all things blooming, I decided to bring a special page from my web site over here to the Emblazoners. Most Tweens I know have a healthy curiosity about the world and all things in it. One creature that should not disappoint in amazing curious minds is the Honey Bee. I’ve spent over a decade working with these fascinating creatures and am still learning about them. Here’s a bit of Bee Trivia that might surprise you as much as it did me:
* Lotta bees
There can be up to 80,000 honey bees in a single hive during the summer months. A queen can lay upwards of 250,000 eggs per year, possibly more than a million during her lifetime.
* Girl power
95% of honey bees are female. One is the queen and the rest of the girls are worker bees. These workers do all the work in the hive: cleaning, feeding and grooming the queen, tending to the larvae, guarding the hive, foraging for nectar and pollen, making honey and beeswax, heating and cooling the hive, basically everything other than laying eggs and fertilizing the queen.
* What’s all that buzzing?
Honey bees have 4 sets of wings that move at a rate of 11,400 strokes per minute, causing their buzz sound. They also use their wings to fan and cool the hive in the summer.
* They mind their beeswax
Honey bees have special glands in their stomach that secrete wax. They take the wax and chew it up to shape into honeycomb–hexagonal wax cells used to house larvae and to store honey and pollen.
* I have a mother, but no father. Say what?
Male honey bees, or drones, are born from unfertilized eggs. So, they have a mother, but no father. A drone’s only job is to mate with a queen, and once he does, he dies. Before that time, he wanders around the hive eating lots of food and doing nothing much else. They are quite large, with big eyes, powerful wings, and tiny mouths. And they do not have a stinger, so are virtually harmless.
* Let’s boogy
Honey bees use several types of dances to communicate with each other. A Round Dance tells of a new source of nectar less than 100 meters from hive, a Wag-Tail Dance tells of nectar more than 100 meters from hive, an Alarm Dance warns that poisonous food has arrived in the hive, and a Cleaning Dance is a request to be cleaned or groomed (sort of like the honey bee’s version of going to a spa).
* Timeless food
Honey is the only food humans eat produced by an insect. Honey bees visit 2 million flowers and travel 55,000 miles to make 1 pound of honey. Each worker bee can make in her lifetime 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey. So, when you put a teaspoon of this liquid gold into your tea, you are eating the labors of 12 bees. Honey contains vitamins, minerals, and live enzymes, and it never goes bad. In fact, an archaeologist found a 3,300 year old jar of honey in an Egyptian tomb that was still edible.
* All the better to see you with
Honey bees have 5 eyes: 2 compound and 3 simple eyes. They have hair on their eyes and no pupils. They see one notch right of the color spectrum, meaning they see ultraviolet, but not red. Their compound eyes are best at detecting motion, so they will visit wind-blown flowers more readily than still ones. Almond trees have nectar that fluoresces under ultraviolet light to help bees know which flowers have food (sort of like a restaurant advertising for business).
* A plea for the honey bee
Honey bees are vital to our food production. Every third mouthful of food is produced by bees pollinating crops; 80% of our food relies on pollination somewhere down the line. We humans should do everything we can to keep these wondrous creatures alive and healthy. Setting up a hobby hive in your garden, eliminating the use of pesticides on flowering plants and trees, and planting nectar-filled flowers will contribute to a healthy population of honey bees and other important pollinators.
Christina Mercer is an award-winning author of fiction for children and young adults. She enjoys life in the foothills of Northern California with her husband and sons, a pack of large dogs, and about 100,000 honeybees. For more about her and her writing, visit www.christinamercer.com
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